Introduction to Sociology: Meaning, Scope & Branches

The knowledge of sociology is relevant not only to those who are considering a career in sociology or other social science disciplines but for every human being that lives in society and have the important need to understand social environments around him/her. That is to say that sociology is relevant to both the lay persons and the learned ones. This status of sociology, universal usefulness, has made the term to be variously defined. It is being regarded as the study of society. This definition is relevant because sociologists study society. But one crucial point here is that this definition is not exclusively directed to sociology because some disciplines such as social psychology, Anthropology, history, philosophy, political sciences, and economics, also study society.

Not only that this definition is not peculiar to sociology, as mark of its deficiency to be accepted as definition of sociology, it denies sociology its scientific status. Sociology is a social science that studies social lives of people, group and societies. This definition is more acceptable than the aforementioned. A very important trait inherent in the discipline is that sociology is a science. Sociology is the scientific study of our behavior as a social being, covering everything from the analysis of short contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social processes. It is the scientific study of social aggregations, the entities through which humans move through their lives.

Sociology is a blend of two Greek words: socius meaning companion and logos meaning discourse or study. Sociology is the scientific study of social life. It describes and analyses social behavior. It seeks to discover how human society has come to be the way it is, and reveal the social forces that shape people’s lives, as forces that influence people and help shape their lives. Society shapes what we do, how we do it, and how we understand what others do.

The paths of our lives are just determined by individual will or even individual effort. Sociologists try to identify social process and structures that both enable and constrain individuals to behave in certain ways. While we are all different and while we are independent actors, we are shaped by long-term processes of social change and by social phenomena such as class, religion, gender, ethnicity, and so forth. Society opens some doors and closes the others on the basis of our gender, our age, our sexuality, our ethnicity or class background.

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Branches of Sociology

Sociology like any other discipline in the field of social sciences has various areas of specializations. These fields of specialization offer in-depth examinations and understandings of a particular area of sociology using the relevant theories in that area of specialization.

These branches of sociology provide the students of sociology a veritable ground to demonstrate their sociological mastery. In the pursuit of advance studies on sociology, a particular area of specialization is toed by the student. Even though these areas of specializations are different, their boundaries are not rigid. There differences do not deter them to focus on recurrent themes of social cohesion, social structure and social change which are part of Sociologists study. Below are some of the branches of sociology;

Industrial Sociology

This branch of sociology is also referred to as sociology of industry. It looks into the existing link between human society and industry. Industrial sociology investigates the natures of interaction or relationship between the industry and social environment. In this sense, it adopts a largely open systems approach in which process of input, thorough-put and output are essential and the relationship between them and society (gbo and Anugwom, 2007).In other words, it sees the organization as an open system that is influenced by the social environment and vice versa.

Adding to the above, industrial sociology focuses on social groups, especially informal groups, within the organization and how these groups function and the impact of these groups on the achievement of organ izational goals. The basic premise underlying this focus is that social group exhibit normative patterns or rules of conduct that may run contrary to the stated goals of the organization.

Industrial sociology examines the nature of relationship between the workers as a social collectivity and the management.

Criminology and Penology

It is a branch of sociology that studies the cause, nature of crime and punishment. It examines the social factors that influence the definition of crime. This branch of sociology also examines the nature of criminals/law breakers and the social factors which predispose one to criminality. In carrying out a scientific study on crime in human society, this branch of sociology also examines the related area of punishment taking into consideration its nature, effectiveness in terms of reformation for human character and its social context. In a nutshell, criminology studies the entire nature of social deviance in human society as well as the social factors that predispose deviance and sanctions used by society to check deviance.

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The scope of Criminology as a branch of sociology also examines juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency which is all about the law breaking acts of members of society below legally prescribed age for punishment also focuses on a part of criminology (Igbo & Anugwom, 2007). Delinquents are members of the society who engage in anti-social behavior or have broken the law but cannot face criminal trials because of age factor. Criminology as a subject matter has immense theoretical and practical uses. It is not surprising that the study has become invaluable in training law enforcement agents of modern society and in prescribing policies that seek to enhance the maintenance of social order and peace in society.

Urban Sociology

It is a branch of sociology that examines the interaction between the changes in urban areas and life and the impact on human society. The urban environment is purely a creation of humanity. Thus, is the desire of humans to live together in pursuit of diverse goals and interests that give impetus to the urban areas. Urban areas, apart from the physical structures and amenities, are aggregations and with different normative patterns, all of which have implications to the urban area. Urban sociology is basically the study of urban life and urban communities. Beyond this narrow concept, urban sociology focuses on the social conditions of the urban population and the analysis of the structure and the nature of urban communities and groups as well as the principles governing social changes in such populations. In doing these and other things, the urban sociologists utilize the ecological or organizational approach.

Race and Ethnic Relations

This area of sociology investigates how the interaction between individuals and groups in the society is influenced by racial and ethnic factors. The question of race is significant in multi-racial society such as Australia, United States of America, where diverse racial groups live together. In such societies, the colour of one’s skin often determines how he interacts with different skin colours and his/her access to scarce resources or collective goods in the society.

Sociology of Development.

The clear understanding of social development gives one clear insight of what sociology of development actually means. Social development is about putting people at the centre of development (Davis, 2004). This means a commitment that development processes need to benefit people, particularly but not only the poor, but also a recognition that people, and the way they interact in groups and society, and the norms that facilitates such interaction, shape development processes The sociology of development is concerned with the principle for ensuring social development and growth in contemporary society. Development in this case is seen as a complex term encompassing various dimensions of social improvement or advancement, ranging from the psychological and social to the physical and economic. Therefore, sociology of development examines both the historical and social contexts of development and growth as well as the social factors that influence development.

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Sociology of Religion

This branch studies the structure of the religion n social system as no society is free from the influence of it. It analyses the social behavior of human beings. It also studies the religious constitutions and their role in the society. Auguste Comte, Emmile Durkheim, Herbet Spencer did the study of elementary forms of religious life.

Sociology of Economy

This branch of sociology studies production, distribution, consumption and exchange of goods and services. This branch also studies the economic activities of the society in which the focus is given about the socio-cultural factors. The access in production, the mode of distribution, the real consumers, and the role of culture in such activities are studied under it. For example, Why Hindus don’t eat Cow?

Sociology of Law

Sociology of law and legal system are considered as the part of Society, as social institution. Law is one of the very important means of social control. Law is related with other different social sub systems. Such as economy, nature of distribution, authority, structure of family, kinship, relationships, etc. So, this branch of sociology is related to moral order for the society as formulation and implementation of rules and regulations, law and order come under this.

Political Sociology

This branch of sociology studies different political moments of the society. It includes the study of different political ideology (view), their origin, development and functions. In this study, different political parties are considered as social institutions. Various activities and behavior of political parties are studied in this branch.

Sociology of Demography

This branch of sociology studies about size, situation, composition, density, distribution, and measurement etc. of the population. In this branch of sociology, we study the distribution of human population with the analysis of population change in sociological perspectives. It also finds out the determining factors of population change and its trend.

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